Sohrab Shahid Saless: An Iranian Filmmaker in Berlin

Sohrab Shahid Saless’ Far From Home (In der Fremde, 1975) opens with a statement declaring that this is not a film about Gastarbeiter (guest workers), but rather about the word ‘Elend’. While the German term Elend literally refers to a state of misery or wretchedness, etymologically the word carries connotations of exile and displacement from home. Indeed, in the Deutsches Wörterbuch (German Dictionary), which Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began compiling in 1838, Elend is defined via the Latin terms ‘exilum, captivitas, miseria’ (exile, captivity, wretchedness). The entry goes on to explain that the original meaning of the word, which is related to homesickness, is ‘living abroad’ or ‘far from home’ (in der Fremde). [1] Furthermore, as a keen reader of Anton Chekhov (in German), Shahid Saless would most certainly have come across this term as the German title of one of Chekhov’s short stories (known in English as ‘In a Strange Land’). It is probably no coincidence that Shahid Saless should preface his film with this term: the term and the title being synonymous. To some extent, this inscription serves to emblematise the story to come, allowing it to function on at least two levels at once. On a literal level, it refers to the status of the film’s characters – Turkish guest workers living ‘far from home.’ More conceptually, the inscription refers us to a broader, more existential concern through which Shahid Saless filters his own experiences of creative exile.

In late 1974, the Iranian-born filmmaker Sohrab Shahid Saless arrived back in Berlin from Tehran. He quickly began to make plans for Far From Home, his third feature film. This film, which centres around a group of Turkish guest workers was one of a number of West German feature films to appear in the mid-1970s that dealt with the plight of this highly marginalised sector of German society. Few, however, seem to remember Far From Home, eclipsed as it has been by works such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, 1974), Helma Sanders-Brahms’ Shirin’s Hochzeit (Shirin’s Wedding, 1976) and the work of a younger generation of Turkish-German filmmakers such as Tewfik Baser, Yilmaz Arslan, and Fatih Akin who would later return to the topic. At the time, Shahid Saless was a much sought-after director and Far From Home was highly anticipated after the enormous success of his two Iranian-made feature films – A Simple Event (Yek Etefagh sadeh, 1973) and Still Life (Tabiate bijan, 1974) – at the Berlinale earlier that year. Indeed, the story of its production and reception reveals that both the film and its director were deeply embroiled in several turning points in Berlin’s cultural history. This article provides an account of Shahid Saless’ first year living and working in Berlin from late 1974 to late 1975. This period coincides with the production and exhibition of Far From Home as he is also simultaneously applying for permission to live and work indefinitely in West Germany. Through a range of archival documents, including letters and press clippings we see Shahid Saless actively attempting to re-construct his identity as a filmmaker against a complex socio-cultural backdrop. In doing so, he adopts the ‘Gastarbeiter’ moniker himself and often emphasises his foreignness. At the same time, we see him longing to be accepted as one among the rising stars of the New German Cinema that was also flourishing during this period. The rich array of archival materials allows me to begin the task of reinserting this prolific filmmaker into (German) film history. It also provides the material to construct a kind of historiography from below that gives insight into the daily struggles of a filmmaker trying to make his way in a foreign land. I will argue that some of the decisions he made in presenting this re-framed identity may have ultimately contributed to his relatively marginal place in the history of the New German Cinema. [2]

Between 1975 and 1992 Shahid Saless directed no less than thirteen feature length projects in Germany, including dramas, documentaries, essay films and several long works for television, culminating in the 183 minute drama Rosen für Afrika (Roses for Africa, 1992), for which he was awarded the German Television Prize. Despite having such a long career in Germany, Shahid Saless barely rates a mention in the scholarly literature. In a short piece published in Film Comment in 2004, German film critic Olaf Möller questions why he features so little in scholarship on either Iranian or German cinema. Möller writes: ‘In terms of film history, Saless [sic] seems to have fallen through the cracks between countries and clichés.’ [3] This echoes Hamid Naficy’s assessment that he ‘remained an outsider in the German cinema.’ [4] In fact, Shahid Saless receives only a fleeting mention in the major texts on German cinema including key works by Thomas Elsaesser, Eric Rentschler, John Sandford and Hans Günter Pflaum. [5] Where he is mentioned, details are scant, or simply incorrect. To take one example, in her book German National Cinema Sabine Hake describes Far From Home as a ‘German-Canadian co-production […] a moving portrayal of Iranians exiled by the Shah [sic] regime.’ [6] As we shall see, Far From Home was neither a German-Canadian co-production nor about exiled Iranians subject to political persecution. This unfortunate misrepresentation of Shahid Saless’ first film made in Germany speaks not only to the lack of sustained scholarship on Shahid Saless’ time in Germany, but also to the fact that his films have until recently almost completely dropped out of circulation. [7] Prior to his arrival back in Germany in late 1974, Shahid Saless had been a prominent proponent of the Iranian New Wave and remains a revered figure in Iranian film history even though the majority of his oeuvre has not been widely circulated in his homeland. [8]

From the Iranian New Wave to the New German Cinema
Shahid Saless was among a handful of Iranian New Wave filmmakers that made a considerable mark on the international film festival circuit in the early 1970s. Dariush Mehrjui’s influential film The Cow (Gav, 1969) had screened at the Berlinale in 1972, about ten months after its international premiere at the 1971 Venice Film Festival. The Iranian government had banned the film due to what was perceived as an implicit criticism of the Shah’s grand project of modernisation. [9] However, one of Mehrjui’s friends smuggled a print out of the country for the Venice screening where it won the Golden Lion, despite being screened without subtitles. The international praise for the film prompted the Iranian government to reconsider the ban and eventually allowed it to be screened with the addition of a disclaimer explaining that the story takes place in a time long before the current era.

This international recognition for The Cow helped to garner intermittent support from the Iranian Ministry for Culture for New Wave filmmakers. However, this relationship often placed filmmakers like Mehrjui and Shahid Saless, who made socially critical films, in the highly contradictory situation of finding themselves caught between international acclaim and domestic censorship. [10] Like Mehrjui’s The Cow, Shahid Saless’ Iranian feature films are set at the margins of Iranian society, amidst some of the country’s poorest communities. A Simple Event is set in a remote fishing village in the north of Iran and depicts little more than the mundane day-to-day life of a ten-year-old boy, his alcoholic father and ailing mother. Still Life concerns an ageing guard stationed at a remote railway crossing. The emphasis on poverty and simple, uneventful lives would have set Shahid Saless at odds with the vast project of modernisation that had been underway since the early twentieth century under the Pahlavi dynasty. In addition, the films’ stylistics – long, static takes, minimal dialogue, simple non-goal oriented narratives, open endings, use of non-professional actors and the repetition of shot set-ups that serve as a kind of poetic visual refrain – distinguished these films from the local commercial cinema (known as film farsi). This enabled them on the one hand to challenge the conventions of local and imported commercial cinema and on the other to contribute to the contemporary current of international modernist art cinema. At the same time as they seem to pay tribute to Italian neo-realism, they also resonated perfectly, although somewhat belatedly with international new film movements such as the French New Wave and New German Cinema via their implicit socio-political critique. It is no surprise that Shahid Saless’ Iranian-made films took the Berlinale by storm in 1974 at the height of the New German Cinema movement. Both Still Life, which screened in the competition section and A Simple Event, which was selected for the Forum program, were met with enormous critical acclaim with both films coming away with several awards, including the Silver Bear for Still Life.

Still Life was one of the first productions made under the umbrella of a new Iranian film collective known as the New Film Group. This was a loose collective of filmmakers affiliated by a common desire to produce an alternative cinema that emphasised art over commerce. The New Film Group was established following the very public resignation of numerous directors, producers, actors and cinematographers from the National Syndicate of Film Industries in 1973. [11] A typed document in German on New Film Group letterhead included among Shahid Saless’ papers details the reasons for the split from the syndicate and outlines the aspirations of the eighteen named members. [12] The document explains that the resignation of fifteen film professionals from the syndicate was made as a protest against the way the increasingly commercial nature of the Iranian film industry was diminishing the quality of films being produced in the country. They reject the local commercial film industry, which they criticise not only on economic grounds, but because it was out of step with cultural progress in the areas of art and literature, and reflected neither Iranian reality nor the current social situation. The document goes on to mention that the New Film Group had set itself an ambitious target of producing 12 films in 1974 and 1975 with the first two already completed: Still Life by Shahid Saless and The Cycle (Dayereh-ye Mina, 1974) by Dariush Mehrjui in cooperation with the newly established production company Telefilm. Other prominent members named in the document include: Bahram Beizai, Ali Hatami, Massoud Kimiai, Nasser Taghvai, prominent actor Behrouz Vossoughi, as well as Mantouchehr Anvar (President) and Parviz Sayyad (Managing Director). Due to growing unrest over the next few years, which culminated in the Iranian revolution of 1979, the group would gradually disperse, with several key members fleeing the country.

I mention the New Film Group at length here not only because it co-produced Far From Home, but also because the Group’s motivations and aspirations resonate closely with those of the Young German Filmmakers who penned the Oberhausen Manifesto more than a decade earlier in 1962 and followed this with several follow-up declarations over the next two decades. [13] The Oberhausen Manifesto, which lay much of the groundwork for the establishment of the New German Cinema, became a launching pad for filmmakers to lobby the German government to make changes to the system of film subsidies. In an aspirational document, the 26 signatories criticised the state of German commercial cinema and, much like their Iranian counterparts, linked the decline in quality to economic imperatives. The Germans, led by the likes of Alexander Kluge, Peter Schamoni and Edgar Reitz, went a few steps further, calling for new economic, formal and intellectual conceptions of film production to be established. [14] With its ambitions to produce films, the New Film Group also corresponded closely with the German Filmverlag der Autoren, an organisation established in 1971 to produce and distribute films made by New German Cinema directors. When Shahid Saless first visited Berlin in 1974 for the Berlinale the kind of vibrant film culture he found would have resonated closely with him and it is no surprise that he believed that Germany would provide the ideal context for him to continue his career. [15] However, he was acutely aware of how a combination of his foreignness and German bureaucracy would continually relegate him to a position that one critic aptly described as ‘between the stools.’ [16]

After his enormous success at the Berlinale, Shahid Saless initially returned to Iran, hoping to make his third feature film Quarantine (Qarantineh), which was also to be produced by the New Film Group. However, a couple of days into filming, the shoot was interrupted by the authorities, or quite possibly SAVAK (the secret police), and Shahid Saless was prevented from completing the film. [17] By his own account it was this that propelled him to leave Iran for Germany. In Germany, Shahid Saless was not able to escape the many contradictions he faced back home in Iran. While he initially saw Germany as an open, creative space, full of opportunity, he soon became critical – cynical even – of the various systems under which German directors worked. He was especially critical of the close interdependence that had developed between film and television in West Germany, even though he would come to rely significantly on television funding throughout the remainder of his career. His complex relationship with producers would be further strained by the fact of his foreignness, as the conditions of his work permits would not allow him to self-produce his own films.

In der Fremde (Far From Home)
Far From Home was partly inspired by Shahid Saless’ experiences as a young film student in Vienna in 1962. He recalls: ‘When I was studying in Austria, I found out what it was like to be a badly treated foreigner.’ [18] To support himself he had worked at unskilled jobs, such as a night porter in a Viennese apartment block. It was also in Vienna that he learnt German. During his visit to Berlin for the Berlinale in 1974, he noticed the large number of Turkish guest workers in the city and visited the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, which was home to a high concentration of immigrant workers from Turkey and southern Europe. It was there that he met many of the non-professional actors that would perform in the film. He claims to have written the script in Persian during his stay in Berlin in just twelve hours. This would become his lifeline later in 1974 as he made the decision to leave Iran, frustrated at not being able to make his next film, and more than a little concerned that if he stayed in Iran, he might well have been arrested. [19]

By early October 1974, Shahid Saless was back in Berlin and making plans for Far From Home. On 11 October, he makes what appears to be a co-ordinated splash in the Berlin press. Articles in the Berliner Morgenpost, Der Tagesspiegel and the even the tabloid newspaper B. Z. all announce his new film project, which is to begin shooting in early December. [20] It is to be a German-Iranian co-production and Shahid Saless’ compatriot and fellow New Film Group member Parviz Sayyad will perform in the lead role, supported by a cast of non-professional actors. The Berliner Morgenpost also mentions that Shahid Saless will collaborate with Berlin-based Iranian cinematographer, Ramin Reza Molai, who is pictured together with Shahid Saless in the article. “I want to shoot the film through the perspective of foreigners” said Shahid Saless, “after all I too am a foreigner.” These articles, which all remark on his success at the Berlinale earlier that year, also suggest that he had built up a considerable reputation with film critics and the press that he could now call upon to gain some useful publicity.

Behind the scenes, in a letter to Ulrich Gregor at the Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek (Friends of the German Cinémathèque) dated 10 October 1974, Shahid Saless mentions that he is in negotiation with a German co-producer to realise a new film project in Berlin. [21] It is not until mid-November that a German co-producer is named: the Hamburg-based firm PROVOBIS are to co-produce the film with the Tehran-based New Film Group. Filming is due to commence in early December. [22] This information is conveyed in a letter from Shahid Saless to Berlin Mayor and minister for the Interior, Senator Kurt Neubauer where he asks for assistance to secure permission to live and work in Germany. What is most interesting in the archival records of this period is the close correspondence that Shahid Saless begins to draw between his film and his own rather precarious residency situation. Before moving on to look more closely at this, let’s turn briefly to look at the film itself.

Like Shahid Saless’ earlier films, Far From Home tells a simple story of characters trapped within the limited world of their own meagre existence and at the mercy of broader socio-economic currents. Hussein (Parviz Sayyad), the film’s central character is a Turkish guest worker. When we first meet him in the opening scene, he is at work in a factory. Shahid Saless and his cinematographer, Ramin Reza Molai, capture the mundane and alienated nature of Hussein’s existence through the repetitious rhythms of the machinery that visually and sonically beat out a monotonous rhythm. The soundscape is dominated by the noisy clunking and hissing of the machinery as it belts out metallic objects, Hussein at the mercy of its rhythms, until finally a bell rings, marking the end of his shift. The overwhelming noise and alienating atmosphere of the factory is matched in the next shot by the starkly contrasting silence of the street, which seems no less alienating than the noisy mise en scène of the factory. It is perhaps no coincidence that the first lines of dialogue are not spoken until almost 10 minutes into the film as Hussein arrives ‘home’. Indeed, silences run through the film; the characters becoming known to us less by what they say, and more by their gestures and postures, which are marked by a kind of internal weight that seems to slow them down.

Shahid Saless’ typically observational camera follows Hussein as he makes his way ‘home’ on the Berlin underground where he alights at Moritzplatz, in the heart of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. Hussein lives in a simple rather dilapidated apartment with several other Turkish guest workers. Through these scenes Shahid Saless offers viewers brief snapshots of the guest worker experience. The Turkish characters maintain links with their homeland by writing letters home and sending money to support their families. A postcard of Istanbul, Turkish tea and music serve as ciphers of a distant but not forgotten homeland. Others are on the verge of return either because their work permits have been revoked or because someone at home has died. Still others, including Hussein, make awkward attempts to ‘integrate’ into the host land by learning German and dating German women: but integration still seems like a distant dream, or perhaps even a nightmare. The monotonous rhythms of daily life continue on, punctuated only by minute and mostly mundane diversions from routine.

The space of the apartment is heavy with Elend: it isn’t a home. Far from it, it is for some a space of stasis and for others only a temporary shelter. They are really only just passing through: temporary residents, not citizens. In this sense, Shahid Saless’ film may be considered a filmic counterpart to John Berger and Jean Mohr’s book A Seventh Man, which was written and photographed in 1973 and 1974 and first published in 1975. Berger’s words and Mohr’s images capture the same socio-cultural moment in time. Like Shahid Saless, Berger emphasises the temporality of the guest worker experience: ‘What distinguishes this migration from others in the past is that it is temporary […] Their work contracts are usually for one year, or, at the most, two.’ Berger’s words also capture the dehumanising experience of the types of jobs such workers were brought in to undertake: ‘It is not men who immigrate but machine-minders, sweepers, diggers, cement mixers, cleaners, drillers etc.’ [23] One of the most striking features of Far From Home is precisely the way this dehumanisation is presented, not only via the depiction of characters like Hussein, but also through the repetitious rhythms of the film’s own narrative progression and almost obsessive return to the same or similar shot set-ups. Indeed, Berger’s words serve a fitting description of this aspect of the film:

Stamping, boring, pressing beating, the scream of hydraulic tools, the shock of substance hitting substance, and one substance grating against another. It takes him a long time to get accustomed to the noise. […] If the noise slackens or if he leaves the workshop, its cessation does not bring a stillness because the same insistent, amputated rhythms are still present in his head and, since he feels these and can hear nothing, it is like going deaf.
Silence here is deafness. [24]

Hussein seems trapped both in the endless repetition of factory’s daily routine and also within the confines of a narrative structure that never seems to offer even a glimmer of hope for a better life. Hussein has very limited opportunities to encounter or engage with the broader German community and many of those encounters are negative or awkward. He suffers racial abuse in the underground and his awkward romantic advances towards a woman in the park are stiffly rebuffed. Like Shahid Saless’ earlier feature films Far From Home offers little in the way of a plot. Shahid Saless is less interested in forwarding a story than establishing the atmosphere of Elend, which seems to envelop his characters.

Shahid Saless as Gastarbeiter
While the film was certainly informed by Shahid Saless’ past as a student in Vienna, where he would have worked amongst that city’s guest worker population and had experienced his own share of racial abuse, the production of Far From Home in Berlin so soon after he fled Iran meant that he himself was directly feeling the effects of being displaced from his homeland and facing an uncertain future. The archival record provides us with a rich view into the personal context against which the film was made and through Shahid Saless’ correspondence with German authorities, producers and film festival representatives we begin to see him embracing the Gastarbeiter moniker.

On 14 November 1974, the same day that he wrote to Senator Neubauer, Shahid Saless registered with the authorities at an address in Charlottenburg, one of West Berlin’s more affluent suburbs. [25] Other correspondence show this to be the residence of Helga Houzer, who is credited as co-writer of Far From Home, and it was also not far from the home of cinematographer Ramin Reza Molai, who would go on to work with Shahid Saless on numerous films. This period from October 1974 through to the end of 1975 was one of great uncertainty for Shahid Saless, for he had entered West Germany without a work or residency permit and he subsequently found it very difficult to secure such permits. Throughout this time he wrote numerous letters to the ‘Ausländerpolizei’ (immigration authorities) as well as to various German Senators requesting permission to stay in Germany indefinitely and to carry out his work as a filmmaker. Additionally, within four days of registering his address with the authorities, Shahid Saless engaged the services of solicitor Wolfgang Büsch to represent him in his quest for residency. This strategy was met with a short-term reprieve, as on 29 November 1974, just a few days before he was due to commence shooting Far From Home, the Polizeipräsident in Berlin wrote to say that he may remain in Berlin until 28 February 1975 in order to fulfil the obligations of his contract with PROVOBIS. The letter also instructs that that he must depart no later than 10 March. This would be the first of several short-term reprieves.

Almost as soon as Shahid Saless had received this temporary permit, he engaged a new legal firm (Peter and Dietrich Martin) to assist him to attain long-term residency. This first letter, dated 2 December 1974 reveals that Shahid Saless and Houzer, who is now described as his ‘Verlobte’ (fiancé), have moved to an address in the district of Schöneberg-Tempelhof located a short distance south of Kreuzberg. At the time, the district of Kreuzberg had one of the highest concentration of Turkish and other foreign guest workers and provided several filming locations for Far From Home.

The production of the film coincides precisely with a significant moment in the social history of the city and its foreign workforce and it appears that Shahid Saless was keenly aware of this. On 1 January 1975 the Berlin Senate, led by Senator Kurt Neubauer, introduced legislation known as a Zuzugssperre (ban on entry and settlement) that applied to the districts of Kreuzberg, Neuköln and Wedding. It was intended to prohibit ‘underpriviledged foreigners’ from settling in these areas. These districts had the highest concentration of foreign workers, many of them Turkish. For example, according to Chian Arin, by 1 January 1975 over 28,000 or 18% of Kreuzberg’s residents were Turkish. [26] Residents were advised of these restrictions via notices issued by Berlin’s Polizeipräsident (chief of police), the same authority Shahid Saless had been communicating with about his own residency status. These notices were posted in apartment buildings and public spaces all around the Kreuzberg, Tiergarten and Wedding districts in late 1974. One such notice is preserved among Shahid Saless’ business correspondence, confirming his awareness of this new legislation. The measures were also reported widely in the German press, with articles naming Senator Neubauer as the instigator of the Zusugssperre. [27] It is perhaps no surprise that Shahid Saless should think it appropriate to write directly to Senator Neubauer about his own residency dilemma. Given that he was in the midst of making Far From Home at the time and he was himself struggling to settle in Berlin – and also in constant communication with the Polizeipräsident – the notice would have seemed doubly relevant to him on personal and professional levels.

Like Germany’s guest workers, who were normally only permitted to stay on short-term work permits and on condition that they were gainfully employed, Shahid Saless recognised early on that if he was to remain in Germany indefinitely, he would need to secure future work. Thus in parallel to his appeals for residency, we see him actively trying to secure contracts for future projects. For example, in mid-November 1974, he wrote to the East German Cultural Affairs Minister requesting a meeting to discuss ideas he has for a project to adapt the writings of Anton Chekhov to film. [28] He even mentions that he had visited East Berlin during his stay for the Berlinale. It’s hard to imagine the East German authorities tolerating Shahid Saless’ biting social commentary, although later he did work in some of the Eastern bloc countries and he did bring to fruition two Chekhov projects: one, an adaptation of a Chekhov story, Der Weidenbaum, (1984) and the other a biographical documentary about Chekhov: Anton P. Cechov – Ein Leben (1981). The point here is to show just how actively Shahid Saless was in trying to ensure that he not be forced to return to Iran.

One of the most insightful letters where he speaks of his motivations for leaving Iran was written on 17 February 1975 to Berlin Senator for Science and Art, Professor Dr Werner Stein. Shahid Saless says that it has become impossible for him to continue his work as a filmmaker in Iran because he makes ‘socially critical films,’ explaining: ‘I am not prepared to make films that I do not believe in.’ Attempting perhaps to distance himself from the potentially political implications of this statement, he prefaces this by saying: ‘Honoured Senator, I do not concern myself with politics. As an artist, I have other duties to society.’ At this point, Shahid Saless then attempts to appeal to the ‘democrat’ in Senator Stein writing: ‘I believed that I would be able to continue my artistic activities in a country like the Federal Republic of Germany, a place in which democracy is upheld with such reverence. Unfortunately, I must suffer under an article of law that applies to all foreigners.’ He goes on to ask that Senator Stein make an exception, promising that he will not become a burden on German society, in fact, to the contrary, he only hopes to contribute. [29] The letter contains numerous flourishes of honour and deference to the senator. However, the author has left us with a telling note scribbled at the bottom of the page that provides an alternate view of his situation. The hand-written note reads “What crap to have to beg the Germans” [30]

Around this time, Shahid Saless’ residency status is also attracting the attention of the Berlin press. The headline of one article reads ‘Berlinale Star threatened with expulsion.’ After giving details about the film’s production on location in Berlin, the article mentions Shahid Saless’ own precarious work situation, drawing a parallel with the guest workers in his film. The author reports that Shahid Saless is currently in negotiations with film and television organisations about a new project, but since his residency is dependent on having gainful employment, he may be forced to leave the country. [31]

Soon after his eloquent missive to Senator Stein, Shahid Saless’ solicitors Peter and Dietrich Martin sent a letter marked ‘Urgent’ to the Polizeipräsident, Ausländerbehörder (chief of police, immigration authority) in Berlin. [32] They explained that due to various contracts that Shahid Saless had entered into he will not be able to leave West Germany on 10 March 1975 and request that his residency permit be extended so that he may fulfil his obligations. Shahid Saless receives a response from his solicitors on 13 March, three days after he was supposed to have left the country:

We have negotiated with the Ausländerbehörder. We have received assurance that no enforcement action will be taken against you. The immigration authority is willing to give you a new temporary residence permit, however, this is on condition that your stay in Germany is secured, so that you do not become a public burden. [33]

Thus, not unlike the guest worker, residency in Berlin was for Shahid Saless temporary and tenuous and dependent on having gainful employment. Indeed, as he later bitterly reflected: ‘Because I am a foreigner (Ausländer), I am not allowed to be a producer. I have to find a producer who will grant me the honor of working with me.’ [34] Again, here we observe the manner in which Shahid Saless was always placed in a position of dependence on an ‘employer.’

This is the end of the archival trail as far as the immigration documents are concerned. The next, most interesting part of the story comes from the reception of Far From Home and Shahid Saless’ own recollections of this time, where he quite explicitly frames himself as a kind of ‘guest worker’. Strangely enough, the film itself is also marked with a kind of ‘in-between’ identity.

Far From Home: a film without a Heimat [35]
On 2 April 1975, Berlinale director, Dr Alfred Bauer wrote to the film’s Iranian producer and star, Parviz Sayyad. The letter is addressed to him at the New Film Group advising that Far From Home has been selected to screen in competition at the festival later that year. Dr Bauer mentions that he has ‘written to the National Film Board in Tehran and expressed our admiration for the new masterpiece by the highly gifted director Sohrab Shahid Saless.’ However, what soon emerges is a question over the film’s national identity. Dr Bauer explains that according to the Berlinale rules, the film would not be eligible to screen in competition as a German film and, therefore, had to be submitted as an Iranian film, satisfying this criterion by virtue of the co-production agreement between PROVOBIS and the New Film Group. Accordingly, the Berlinale program listed the film under the Persian title, Dar Ghorbat, a term that carries similar connotations to the German word Elend. Correspondence and press coverage suggest that Shahid Saless believed that his film would have a high chance of winning the Golden Bear for best film, however, the top prize was awarded to the Hungarian film Adoption (Örökbefogadás, 1975) directed by Márta Mészáros. Some commentators speculated that this was a ‘political’ decision, an attempt by the Berlinale to live up to its ‘cultural’ agenda to reach out a hand of friendship to the East and go against the grain of Cold War ideology.

Since its inception, the Berlinale was at the centre of Cold War tensions. Initially it had been established as an ‘instrument of the Cold War’ and explicitly excluded films from communist countries. [36] By the late-1950s, the festival director Alfred Bauer successfully lobbied the Federal government to allow invitations to films from the Soviet bloc. However, in 1958 when the Soviet Union was invited to participate, the Soviets declined, ostensibly because of the West German government’s sponsorship of the festival. [37] It would not be until 1974 that the festival would see the first screening of a Soviet film in the official program. After a tense standoff, the Soviets agreed to the screening of Rodion Nakhapetov’s S toboy i bez tebya (With You and Without You, 1974), but only on the condition that it be screened out of competition. [38] The small rapprochement of 1974 then led to a much more significant development in 1975 when the festival hosted films from almost every Soviet state, including East Germany. According to Der Spiegel, this did not come without concessions: the awards ceremony for the German Film Prize, which usually took place during the Berlinale was re-scheduled to take place 8 hours before the commencement of the festival: a token gesture designed to uncouple the festival from the West German government. [39]

The heavily political dimensions of the 1975 festival were not lost on Shahid Saless who registered his deep disappointed at not winning the Golden Bear. Just days after the awards ceremony Shahid Saless wrote to his producer Otto Kress at PROVOBIS lamenting his loss to the Hungarian film and speculating on the political nature of the award. [40] His letter is filled with a mix of conciliation and bitterness: ‘This year’s Berlinale was for me a significant and huge success. I need say no more about the Golden Bear, which we were all expecting. What this year’s Berlinale jury showed under the might of politics remains a stain…may god be with you.’

It may have seemed presumptuous for Shahid Saless to have expected a win, however, the film had been hotly anticipated in the lead up to the festival, not least because of his success the year before. This anticipation was registered in the contemporary press. For example, two days before the festival, an article in the Berliner Morgenpost named Far From Home as one of two films by young German-based directors hopeful of success at the festival. [41] During the festival numerous critics who had viewed the film hailed it as one of the best films of the festival and their reviews may have played a part in raising the director’s expectations. A short review appearing in B. Z. just after the film’s premiere screening called it ‘a tranquil masterwork’ and the first film so far at the festival that is ‘truly prize worthy,’ suggesting that it should be in the running for the Golden Bear. This sentiment was shared by Inger Bongers of Der Abend newspaper, opening her article with an up-beat announcement: ‘Warning, very prize worthy!’ [42] The day after the conclusion of the festival Bongers expressed her surprise and disappointment that Far From Home and Shahid Saless were overlooked for the top prizes, despite the fact that ‘most critics’ had favoured the film to win the Golden Bear, lamenting also the fact that the film had been ineligible to be considered for the German Film Prize. [43] A longer article that appeared in Welt am Sontag discusses how Shahid Saless was embittered by the loss and vowed never to enter another film into the Berlinale. [44] The film did come away with the International Press Prize, although this achievement seems to have been eclipsed by the overwhelming sense of disappointment felt by both critics and Shahid Saless himself. Far From Home went on to have a brief theatrical release in Berlin and other German cities, although reports indicate that audience numbers were relatively small. One critic who wrote at length about the film was the prominent German director Rudolph Thome. In a long article about the film published in HOBO, a local weekly Berlin newspaper, Thome admitted having an “ambivalent relationship to the film,” which he admired for its “art” but felt was too “pessimistic” and “brutal.” Despite this, Thome said the film is “perhaps the most important film made in Berlin since the end of the war. It says more about Berlin than all the ‘Berlin Films’ made to date.” [45] Thome’s words go some way to framing Far From Home as an important German film, however, its ‘national’ identity would remain ambiguous.

By November 1975 Far From Home began receiving invitations from several high profile film festivals including the London International Film Festival. [46] Festival director, Ken Wlaschin also invited Shahid Saless to accompany the film. Although the trail of archival documentation about Shahid Saless’ residency status had ceased in mid-March, his response to the invitation suggests that this matter had not yet been fully resolved. In this letter, Shahid Saless draws a direct comparison between his life and the film. He says that the reason he cannot attend is simple: “I am not a German.” [47] The letter also reveals crucial details not only about Shahid Saless’ ongoing battle for German residency, but gives further insight into the sense of marginalisation he feels. I quote at length from the letter:

In any case, the German government will not pay for my airfare. My problem is not really the matter of a measly airfare; it is rather more complex. Despite the fact that In der Fremde has captured the attention of the press as well as the critics, and regardless of the international recognition it has received, I must at the moment take care of my residency permit in Berlin. One must not forget that as a foreigner (far from home [English]) my problem is not a simple one. On the other hand, I have coincidentally noticed an article in the latest issue of Der SPIEGEL about German films. The author speaks proudly of your invitation of the German contingent to the festival. However, there was no mention of me ‘as foreigner’ (Ausländer) or my film.
Dear Mr Wlaschin, as you can see, for the time being I belong nowhere, at least that’s something. For me, this is a regrettable and sad situation; that I will not have the honour to be your guest at the festival. I am, however, pleased that ‘In der Fremde’ says everything about my situation.
I ask your forgiveness and hope that you will not read this letter merely as an apology that I cannot accept your invitation, but as a clarification of my current situation. My residency permit expires on 31 December 1975, so in order that I do not suffer the same fate as the characters in my film (In der Fremde), I must remain here. [48]

On one level, this letter provides further insight into the ongoing question of Shahid Saless’ residency status. Despite having been working and living in Berlin for more than a year, it appears that he had not yet found any long-term security. He remained in limbo, and evidently so did his film. Despite being a German-Iranian co-production, filmed in Berlin with cast of non-professional Turkish actors already residing in Berlin, and despite gaining high praise from critics in Germany and abroad, like its director, the film was effectively stateless. This point is further emphasised by the bitterness expressed by Shahid Saless that neither he nor his film had been mentioned in a recent article in Der Spiegel. [49]

This article that appeared on 17 November 1975, just a few days before Shahid Saless received the invitation to attend the London Film Festival, served as a prominent celebration in the popular press of the New German Cinema. Quoting from the international press, the article mentions filmmakers such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlöndorff, Alexander Kluge, Werner Herzog and Werner Schroeter heralding them as ‘Cinema’s new Wunderkinder’ as ‘brilliant young Germans.’ Even Ken Wlaschin is mentioned for his admiration of this rising wave of new German filmmaking, which he calls ‘the most exciting movement in contemporary cinema.’ Whether or not a recent arrival from Iran could expect to be named alongside these young luminaries of the New German Cinema scene after having made just one film (and a co-production at that) in his newly adopted home is debatable, however, it points to an ongoing sense of exclusion and marginalisation – personal and professional – that had preoccupied Shahid Saless for at least an entire year.

Between self-othering and exceptionalism
What my account of Shahid Saless’ first year in Berlin shows is the degree to which his situation was deeply complex and contradictory. We see an accomplished and decorated artist striving to find a new home for his cinematic expression, yearning to be recognised among the shooting stars of the New German Cinema. At the same time, we see both the filmmaker and his film suffer under various rules of German bureaucracy that render him and his film effectively stateless: not so much ‘far from home’, but homeless. This sense of marginalisation is palpably expressed in a letter to his producer Otto Kress dated 6 September 1975. Shahid Saless signs off with the following words: ‘Ihr persischer Schützling und Gastarbeiter’ (Your Persian protégé and guest worker). [50] We can see in these words Shahid Saless in the process of building a multi-dimensional persona that can be described as a form of ‘self-othering.’ What I mean by this is an active process of emphasising his foreignness and aligning himself with Germany’s ‘others.’ At the same time, however, alongside the suggestions of marginalisation and powerlessness expressed through the Gastarbeiter moniker, he simultaneously harnessed the cultural capital that comes with being an award-winning filmmaker and intellectual to argue for exceptional treatment under German immigration laws. Undoubtedly, both of these contradictory positions granted him a degree of agency denied to Germany’s actual guest workers such as those portrayed in his film. Indeed, this is keenly illustrated by an incident that occurred in the middle of shooting Far From Home. Just as filming of the exterior scenes was drawing to a close, one of the film’s non-professional actors, Muhammet Temizkan, was ordered to leave Berlin by the immigration authorities together with his pregnant wife. Temizkan plays Kasim, a character that returns to Turkey at the end of the film after receiving a letter from his mother telling him that his father has died. Although Shahid Saless had secured a solicitor to assist Temizkan, he was expelled from the country few days later. [51]

It is clear that Shahid Saless was consciously playing a rhetorical game. On one level, ‘persischer Schützling’ points to Shahid Saless’ self-inscription as both a foreigner and as an emerging artist. His use of the term ‘Schützling,’ shows him adopting a diminutive and deferential position in relation to the producer Kress. In addition, like the French ‘protégé’ the German term is closely related to the verb ‘schützen’ (to protect, shield or shelter) and clearly alludes to the important role played by Kress and PROVIBIS more generally in securing his residency status. Given Shahid Saless’ Iranian background, this may also be read as a ‘self-lowering’ gesture, a typical form of communication in Iran where one shows polite deference to an interlocutor and in doing so also implies a reciprocal process of ‘other-raising’. [52] Such deferential self-positioning contrasts significantly to the way he asserts himself as a highly accomplished artist in other correspondence of this period. At the same time, his use of the term Schützling also points to the fact that Shahid Saless’ residential status prevented him from producing his own films in Germany and should be seen as his expression of a subject position imposed upon him by German bureaucracy and, therefore, a potent example of rhetorical self-othering based on an externally imposed otherness.

More problematically, the addition of the term ‘Gastarbeiter’ suggests a more localised and strategic type of self-inscription, one that as we have seen, Shahid Saless went on to actively nurture. The adoption of the guest worker moniker helped to produce an effect of life mirroring art with relation to his film Far From Home and in doing so provided the perfect platform on which to promote the film alongside his own plight for residency. It could be argued that he adopted the guest worker persona in part as a way of coming to terms with his own sense of exile and displacement or Elend, but also as a way of framing his own, uncertain existence in a way that would be meaningful for his German hosts. He seems to be asking for both pity and respect. Furthermore, as I have already shown throughout this article, aligning his own situation with the protagonists of his film also helped to garner him some valuable publicity for himself and his film by fostering a romanticised notion of life mirroring art. In this sense, his use of the term Gastarbeiter to refer to his own situation appears at least in part to be a strategic manoeuvre. While it would be incorrect to completely de-value Shahid Saless’ genuine experiences of displacement and uncertainty that certainly echo aspects of the guest worker experience, it is also necessary to acknowledge some of the ways his situation also differed significantly from the characters in his film and the broader population of guest workers they represented.

An inherent contradiction emerges in the way Shahid Saless presents himself, on the one had as a guest worker with no proper home, and on the other as a successful artist with a high degree of cultural capital and social mobility. In his correspondence with authorities he frequently appeared to be claiming a degree of exceptionalism: an inherently greater capacity to contribute fruitfully to German society and, therefore, he believed that he deserved to be treated differently from other foreigners trying to settle and work in Germany: ‘I must suffer under an article of law that applies to all foreigners.’ [53] For example, in several of the letters that he wrote to the authorities, he introduces himself by highlighting his numerous accomplishments as a filmmaker. [54] These serve to implicitly claim a greater right to be allowed to live and work in Germany on the basis of the cultural capital he possessed. Further evidence of Shahid Saless’ claims for exceptional treatment can be found in correspondence between his solicitor Wolfgang Büsch and the immigration authorities. In a letter dated 18 November 1974 Büsch explicitly requests that an exception be made to the usual requirement that applications for permission to work in Germany are applied for at the Embassy or Consulate in the person’s country of residence. The letter requests that Shahid Saless neither be required to return to Iran to make such an application nor be forced to send his passport to the German Embassy in Tehran for fear that it may be lost, thereby jeopardising any hope of remaining in Germany. In the letter, his solicitor also refers to the ‘difficulties’ Shahid Saless had faced in Iran and speaks of the impossibility of making further films in Iran because he ‘makes socially critical films.’ In this case, Büsch plays the ‘exiled’ artist card on Shahid Saless’s behalf using a phrase that he had himself used previously.

This aspect of Shahid Saless’ self-positioning contrasts starkly with the guest workers he repeatedly claims alignment with. As Berger emphasises throughout his Marxist-inspired analysis, the foreign worker in Europe possesses little such capital of his own: ‘He is free to sell his labour power like a commodity […] To live he can sell his life,’ however his life is worth far less on this commodity market than the lives of local workers. [55] Indeed, as a filmmaker, Shahid Saless is not subject to the same kind of labour market forces, despite his constant struggles to secure ongoing support for his cinematic visions throughout his career. His struggles are of a significantly different order. It is important to remember that he had many more privileges and opportunities open to him than the Turkish protagonists of his film and the wider guest worker community, who were mostly employed on tenuous contracts as unskilled labourers or in jobs with a low skill-base and low wages. Unlike the majority of guest workers from Turkey or Southern Europe, Shahid Saless could speak and write articulately in German and had native-speaking German friends who could assist him. This enabled him to write to the various senators and officials seeking assistance with his residency. In addition, he was an internationally educated artist, having studied filmmaking in Vienna and Paris, with a reputation and accolades that afforded him the opportunity and leverage to negotiate contracts for ongoing work. His talent and reputation together with his professional connections including Molai, Otto Kress and members of the press helped to secure a public profile and opportunities for ongoing ‘employment’ as a filmmaker. Furthermore, while he was by no means a wealthy man, he did have the means to engage a solicitor, which certainly would have had a major impact on the decisions made by the immigration authorities. In terms of his residency status, this strategy appears to have worked, for while he would never secure permanent residency, he did manage to sustain a prolific filmmaking career in Germany for almost two decades.

What this account of Shahid Saless’ first year in Germany also highlights is the extent to which his film could also be ‘othered’ by nation-based festival rules and governmental regulations that were used to inscribe a film with a ‘national identity.’ Evidently, a film described by Rudolf Thome as the most important post-war film made in Berlin about a topic so fundamental to the nation’s post-war history was not considered ‘German’ enough to warrant its ‘belonging’ to such a nation. Furthermore, this official marginalisation, combined with his own strategy of self-othering would have impacted significantly on Shahid Saless’ ambitions to be considered among the ranks of the New German Cinema directors that he so greatly admired. My account of this rich and complex socio-political context in which he lived and worked from late 1974 to the end of 1975 may also begin to explain why he remains such a marginal presence in the historical record of the New German Cinema.

A combination of historical, political, economic and critical forces may have conspired to exclude Shahid Saless from the history books. In some senses too, until relatively recently the very concept of ‘national cinema’ as it is constructed by social formations such as film festivals or performed within film studies has provided little scope for retrieving forgotten figures such as Shahid Saless. It is only though the kind of recuperative research that I am engaged in here – that maps everyday experience against broader socio-cultural and political currents – that we can begin to gain greater insight into some of the forces that either help or hinder a filmmaker attempting to re-establish their career in a foreign land.

I would like to thank George Kouvaros, Laetitia Nanquette, Rosa Holman, Frances Calvert, Mahsa Salamati and Lida Amiri for their input and feedback on earlier drafts of this article.


[1] Deutsches Worterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm. (accessed 4 April, 2016).
[2] This article draws on primary research conducted at the Werkstatt Film, Oldenburg, Germany (Dokumentationsstelle Sohrab Shahid Saless, hereafter DSSS), which houses a collection of material relating to Shahid Saless’ work as a filmmaker in Germany. Unpublished documents such as letters are cited in footnotes using document reference numbers employed by the DSSS. Where press clippings held in the DSSS do not contain adequate bibliographic information, I also use the DSSS reference number, otherwise I give the full citation. The majority of documents are in German. Translations are my own. My thanks to Farshid Ali Zahedi for generously facilitating access to the archival material.
[3] Olaf Möller, ‘Sohrab Shahid Saless,’ Film Comment, Issue 40:4 (2004), p. 12.
[4] Hamid Naficy, An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 205.
[5] Thomas Elsaesser, New German Cinema: A History, (London: BFI, 1989); Eric Rentschler, West German Film in the Course of Time: Reflections on the Twenty Years Since Oberhausen, (New York: Redgrave, 1984); John Sandford, The New German Cinema, (London: Methuen, 1981); Hans Günter Pflaum, Germany on Film: Theme and Content in the Cinema of the Federal Republic of Germany, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990).
[6] Sabine Hake, German National Cinema. 2nd ed. (New York & Oxon: Routledge, 2007): 175. A further example of misattribution occurs in a PhD dissertation by Silvia Cornelia Kratzer-Juilfs where Far From Home is described as a film by Parviz Sayyad and incorrectly listed as made in 1982. ‘Exile Cinema as National Cinema: Re-Defining German National Cinema (1962-1995),’ PhD Dissertation, (University of California, Los Angeles, 1996), pp. 223, 236-246.
[7] A retrospective of his films has recently taken place at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. In December 2016 the Filmmuseum München will commence a more comprehensive retrospective and a retrospective is being planned in Tehran in early 2017.
[8] Archival records indicate that the Goethe Institut in Tehran had screened some of his films during the 1970s and early 1980s.
[9] Hamid Naficy, A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Volume 2: The Industrializing Years, 1941–1978 (Durham: Duke University Press), p. 347.
[10] Naficy, A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Vol.2, p. 347.
[11] This group also went by the name Progressive Filmmakers’ Cooperative (PFC) (Kanun-e Sinemagaran-e Pishro) see Naficy, A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Vol. 2, pp. 353-356.
[12] DSSS, Index 670, Karton 148, Nummer 10-561.
[13] These include ‘The Mannheim Declaration (1967), and ‘The Hamburg Declaration (1979).’ A collection of these, including ‘The Oberhausen Manifesto (1962)’ is published in translation in Eric Rentschler ed. West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices, (New York & London: Holmes & Meyer, 1988), pp. 2-7.
[14] It should be noted that in 1963 the poetic essay film The House is Black (Khaneh siah ast, 1963) by Iranian modernist poet Forugh Farrokhzad won a major prize at the Oberhausen film festival, demonstrating an important interchange between German and Iranian film cultures.
[15] At least one German film critic has drawn a parallel between the Oberhauseners and the New Film Group. See, BJ, ‘Zwischen den Stühlen. Begegnung mit dem persischen Filmregisseur Sohrab Shahid Saless,’ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, p. 22 March 1979. DSSS, Index 39, Karton 146, Nummer 10-37.
[16] BJ, ‘Zwischen den Stühlen,’ 22 March 1979.
[17] Mamad Haghighat et. al. ‘This Isn’t Pessimism: Interview with Sohrab Shahid Saless,’ Discourse, Vol. 21:1. (1999), p. 164. I note that this interview incorrectly mentions the film being made as A Time For Maturity. It seems that this is not correct as Shahid Saless made A Time For Maturity (Reifezeit), in Germany in 1976. See also Naficy, A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Vol. 2, p. 396.
[18] Haghighat, ‘This Isn’t Pessimism,’ p. 166.
[19] Haghighat, ‘This Isn’t Pessimism,’ p. 166.
[20] Bodo Kochanowski, ‘Der Mann aus Teheran, zwei Filme und Sechs Preise,’ B.Z. 11 October, 1974; Tsp, ‘Berlinale “”-Preisträger in Berlin: Sohrab Shahid Saless dreht eine deutsch-persische Koproduktion,’ Der Tagesspiegel, 11 October, 1974; Bernd Lubowski, ‘Gastarbeiter in Sachen Kunst: Berlinale-Sieger filmt in Berlin,’ Berliner Morgenpost, 11 October, 1974.
[21] Shahid Saless to Ulrich Gregor, 10 September 1974, DSSS, Index 236, Karton 131, Nummer 07-236.
[22] Shahid Saless to Senator Neubauer 14 November 1974, DSSS, Index 1, Karton 131, Nummer 07-1. Jürgen Mohrbutter (PROVOBIS) to Shahid Saless, 18 November 1974, DSSS, Index 5, Karton 131, Nummer 07-5.
[23] John Berger and Jean Mohr, A Seventh Man: A Book of Images and Words about the Experience of Migrant Workers in Europe, (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1975), p. 58.
[24] Berger and Mohr, A Seventh Man, p. 104.
[25] Residency registration form (Behördenformular) DSSS, Index 1904, Karton 134, Nummer 07-1899. German law requires that residents register with the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residence Registration Office) within a week of finding permanent accommodation. Even though he had been back in Berlin since early October, it appears as this is the first time he had registered, as his previous address given in the document is in Tehran.
[26] Chian Arin ‘The Housing Market and Housing Policies for the Migrant Labor Population in West Berlin’,’ in Elizabeth D. Huttman, Juliet Saltman, & Wim Blauw eds. Urban Housing Segregation of Minorities in Western Europe and the United States (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 205-206.
[27] See for example, ‘Stopp für Türken’, Der Spiegel, 45, (04 November 1974), pp. 65-66.
[28] Shahid Saless letter to Kulturminister (GDR), 14 November, 1974, DSSS, Index 33, Karton 131, Nummer 07-33.
[29] Shahid Saless to Prof Dr Werner Stein 17 February 1975. DSSS, Index 24, Karton 131, Nummer 07-24.
[30] In German the note reads: ‘Wohl eine scheisse, die Deutschen anflehen zu müssen
[31] Lubo, ‘Berlinale-Star droht Ausweisung,’ Berliner Morgenpost, 10 February, 1975. Shahid Saless’ situation is also recounted in a second article: ‘Der Regisseur, der nicht in Berlin arbeiten soll’ (publication unknown, nd.). DSSS, Index 169, Karton 146, Nummer 10-132.
[32] Peter and Dietrich Martin to Polizeiprasident in Berlin, Ausländerbehörde, 4 March 1975. DSSS, Index 26, Karton 131, Nummer 07-26.
[33] Peter & Dietrich Martin Rechtsanwälte to SSS, 13 March 1975. DSSS, Index 27, Karton 131, Nummer 07-27.
[34] Sohrab Shahid Saless, ‘Culture as Hard Currency or: Hollywood in Germany (1983)’ in Eric Rentschler (ed.) West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices, (New York & London: Holmes & Meyer, 1988), p. 56.
[35] The German term Heimat literally means ‘homeland,’ but also suggests deep emotional connections to home.
[36] Marijka de Vlack, Film Festivals: From European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2007), p. 52.
[37] Berlinale Yearbook, ‘8th Berlin International Film Festival, June 27 – July 8, 1958) (accessed 8 April, 2016)
See also, Berlinale Yearbook, ‘24th Berlin International Film Festival, June 21 – July 2, 1974,’ (accessed 8 April, 2016)
[38] Berlinale Yearbook, ‘24th Berlin International Film Festival, June 21 – July 2, 1974,’ (accessed 8 April, 2016)
[39] ‘Berlinale: Die Russen sind da,’ Der Spiegel, No. 27, 30 June, 1975, p. 81.
[40] Shahid Saless to Otto Kress (PROVOBIS), 12 July 1975. DSSS, Index 235, Karton 131, Nummer 07-235.
[41] ‘Zwei junge Talente hoffen auf Lorbeer,’ Berliner Morgenpost, 25 June, 1975. DSSS, Index 173, Karton 146, Nummer, 10-134.
[42] ‘Der erste Film, der wirklich „preiswert” ist’ B. Z., 4 July, 1975; Inge Bongers ‘„In der Fremde” (Iran)’ Der Abend, 4 July, 1975. DSSS, Index 177, Karton 146, Nummer 10-36.
[43] Inge Bongers, ‘Es ist doch vieles Gold, was glänzt,’ Der Abend, 9 July, 1975. DSSS, Index 157, Karton 146, Nummer 10-124.
[44] ‘25. Berlinale strahlte wie einst im Mai,’ Welt am Sontag, 13 July, 1975. DSSS, Index 145, Karton 146, Nummer 10-113.
[45] Rudolf Thome, ‘Türkischer Alltag in Kreuzberg,’ HOBO, 2-8 August, 1975. DSSS, Index 189, Karton 146, Nummer 10-144.
[46] It is beyond the scope of this article to provide a full account of the numerous festivals that screened the film in 1975 and 1976. Shahid Saless became known to Australian audiences through the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) under the directorship of Erwin Rado. MIFF had screened Still Life in 1975, followed by Reifezeit (Coming of Age, 1976) in 1977. I thank the anonymous reviewer for highlighting this. Constructing an account of Shahid Saless’ reception at international films festivals is an ongoing part of my research.
[47] Shahid Saless to Ken Wlaschin, nd. DSSS, Index 46, Karton131, Nummer 07-46. Ironically, Shahid Saless’ copy of the letter reads ‘I am a German (Ich bin ein Deutscher)’ rather than ‘I am not a German’ (Ich bin kein Deutscher). The ‘k’ on the typewriter was evidently faulty, rendering the sentence the opposite of that intended. I note that the trail of correspondence allows me to date the letter to between 19 November 1975 when Shahid Saless received an invitation to the festival via his producer PROVOBIS and 28 November 1975 when Ken Wlaschin sent a telegram offering to pay for both airfare and accommodation.
[48] Shahid Saless to Ken Wlaschin, nd. DSSS, Index 46, Karton131, Nummer 07-46.
[49] ‘Lorbeer für die Wunderkinder,’ Der Spiegel 47, 17 November, 1975, 182-192.
[50] Shahid Saless to Otto Kress (PROVOBIS), 6 September 1975. DSSS, Index 140, Karton 131, Nummer 07-140.
[51] Hans-Peter Rosellen, ‘Nach Dreharbeiten kam die Ausweisng,’ Die Welt, 18 October 1976. The article reports that Shahid Saless engaged a lawyer to assist, but to no avail. DSSS, Index 34, Karton 146, Nummer 10-32.
[52] According to William O. Beeman, Persian communication frequently involves processes of ‘other-raising’ and ‘self-lowering,’ which lie at the heart of the practice of ta’arof. William O. Beeman, Language, Status, and Power in Iran (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), pp. 50-58; 141-161.
[53] Shahid Saless to Prof. Dr. Werner Stein 17 February 1975. DSSS, Index 24, Karton 131, Nummer 07-24.
[54] See for example SSS letter to Senator Neubauer, Senator für Inneres, 14 November 1974. DSSS, Index 1, Karton 131, Nummer 07-1.
[55] Berger & Mohr, A Seventh Man, p. 82, 86.

About the Author

Michelle Langford

About the Author

Michelle Langford

Dr Michelle Langford is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies in the School of the Arts and Media at the UNSW Australia. Her current research spans the cinemas of Iran and Germany. She is author of Allegorical Images: Tableau, Time and Gesture in the Cinema of Werner Schroeter (Intellect, 2006) and editor of The Directory of World Cinema: Germany (Intellect, 2012, 2013). Her work on Iranian cinema has appeared in leading film studies journals including Camera Obscura, Screen and Screening the Past. She is currently working on a book entitled Allegory in Iranian Cinema: The Aesthetics of Poetry and Resistance.View all posts by Michelle Langford →